Cultural interest in old Antsirabe. Varied scenic beauty and wildlife safaris in Ranomafana & Isalo National Parks.
The Route South from Tana to the south-west coast includes many typical Madagascar highland towns as well the remarkable Isalo National Park and Ranomafana National Park.
Heading south from Antananarivo, you drive through luxuriant vegetation to Antsirabe. Along the way you'll see the highland landscape with its rice-fields, Merina villages and eroded hills called “lavaka”. This is almost reminiscent of the Far East, with its lush green terraced paddy fields.
Antsirabe is a colonial spa town on Madagascar’s high plateau. It has a cool climate and thermal springs, But it is also one of the most attractive towns in Madagascar. Its former colonial glory can be seen in the wide boulevards, cathedral and the original thermal baths. Colourful “pousse-pousse” carriages and street vendors are everywhere you look. With local craftsmen such as stone cutters or zebu horn carvers at work on the streets. The tiny model cars and bicycles are very cute and there’s even a traditional sweet shop!
Ranomafana is on a series of steep hills. Numerous small streams tumble down the valley via waterfalls and rapids. So it can only really be explored on foot because of these streams. Here you can find the very rare Golden bamboo lemur. And some of the commonly seen lemurs include diademed sifakas. These are the ones who love to leap through the forest canopy.
Continue south, perhaps stopping overnight at Fianarantsoa. This town has a lovely setting on a series of terraced hillsides, surrounded by forest. It has an atmospheric old upper town with crumbling colonial buildings, narrow winding streets and churches everywhere.
Finally the striking Isalo National Park stands out, literally and figuratively – a real focal point. The Isalo massif lies amidst the relatively flat arid grasslands. It offers an awe-inspiring landscape where quirky eroded sandstone outcrops protrude in architectural formations. Here you can enjoy hiking and swimming in the natural rock pools.
Then you can continue south to the beaches n the south-west of Madagascar, such as Ifaty, for some well-earned R & R.
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